Standing in line for hours to pay $10 to drink one 16-ounce beer at the place you bought it? Sounds silly, right? I love beer, and it even sounds silly to me.
But that's what many in central New York will do Oct. 25, when five area Wegmans each receive a case of Focal Banger India pale ale from renowned craft brewery The Alchemist in Stowe, Vermont.
Better known as the brewer of the even more coveted Heady Topper double IPA, The Alchemist has traditionally made its beers available only in the Green Mountain State. You could buy cans at area bars and restaurants to drink there. You could buy four-packs at area retailers to take home, provided you get there within hours of delivery. Or you could buy cases by driving to The Alchemist itself.
That all changed a couple weeks ago, when The Alchemist surprised central New York retailers — including Auburn's Thirsty Pug Craft Beer Market and The Copper Pig BBQ & Taproom — with cases of Focal Banger. (It's gone from the former, but still available at the latter.) The Alchemist asked that the cans be sold individually, and the retailers did so for $8-$9, in line with Vermont bar prices.
Now, it appears Wegmans is getting in on the action. At 4 p.m. Oct. 25, the restaurants at its DeWitt, Canandaigua, Perinton, Pittsford and Williamsville locations will sell cans of Focal Banger for $10. But while the beer's arrival in area taprooms was a surprise, its arrival at the region's biggest supermarket chain has not only been announced, it's been hyped by local media. Now, it's an event.
One bitterly cold January afternoon, Joe Shelton and Mark Grimaldi walked into Prison City P…
Oct. 25 may be a Wednesday, but I doubt that's stopped area beer fans from clearing their schedules so they can be at one of those five Wegmans safely ahead of the beer's 4 p.m. release time. After all, we know there are only 24 cans in a case. That also means the release should at least go better than the "Rick and Morty" Szechuan sauce meltdown last weekend at McDonald's.
Or this event could turn into another example of beer hype going a bit too far. Like beer itself, hype is fine in moderation. Waiting in line for a rare IPA or barrel-aged imperial stout can be fun if it means hanging out with friends — but not neglecting your family. Meeting fellow beer fans — but not bitterly sniping at them. Healthily spoiling yourself — but not emptying your bank account.
That's to say nothing of the mental gymnastics hype can make us do. A beer you line up for can be no different than a movie you've waited years to see, or a car you splurge on because the dealer said so — we can tell ourselves it's good to justify our expectations and behavior. Or we can go the other way and blindly pooh-pooh it to justify our lack of the same expectations and behavior.
I took home a few four-packs of Focal Banger when I went to Vermont in June. And it is indeed a very good IPA. If you've never had it, or if you have had it but it's been too long since your last can, I can understand lining up at Wegmans Oct. 25. But I can't understand treating it as anything more than standing in line for hours to pay $10 to drink one 16-ounce beer at the place you bought it.
Gallery: Cayuga County's new craft beer scene
Four craft breweries have sprouted up in Cayuga County within the past year, and along with a new craft beer market, they've all seen sales surpass their original projections. Local brewers talk about what they have planned next and the state of the craft brewing industry.
What's on tap
Prison City Pub & Brewery
Dawn and Marc Schulz's Auburn brewpub recently returned from the three-day Great American Beer Festival in Denver, where it poured Everybody's Innocent IPA, Hard Labor pilsner, Lights Out at 11 imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels with vanilla bean, and Guavatanamo Bay Berliner weiss with guava.
Though Prison City didn't medal like it did in 2015, Ben Maeso's brews did earn raves from Fortune and ABV Chicago. The brewpub also brought a keg of Wham Whams (its imperial stout with toasted coconut and vanilla beans, aged in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels) to the Denver Rare Beer Tasting supporting Pints for Prostates, and kicked it in 25 minutes.
Back in Auburn, Prison City's basement expansion is now fully operational. As a result, it's able to keep about eight to 10 house beers on tap and sell Crowlers (32-ounce cans) of most of them to go.
Maeso's sours are also making a return after months out of circulation. On tap now is Crime of Passion (with passion fruit puree), and Guavatanamo Bay is incoming. Also newly on tap at the brewpub is HEF, a German-style hefeweizen made exclusively by assistant brewers Rob Bowen and Joe Rusch.
Lunkenheimer Craft Brewing Co.
Derric and Kristen Slocum's Weedsport brewery was awarded second place in the all-New York beer class at the Crooked Creek Hop Off at Crooked Creek Hop Farm in Addison. The winning beer was its Bier 205-1886 IPA, the first one beer made with malt from the 1886 Malt House in the old Miller Brewing Co. plant in Fulton. Lunkenheimer will be at Dickman Farms Greenhouses & Garden Center's Carve & Brew event Saturday, Oct. 21, and The Apple Farm Stand at Mackquinle Farms in North Rose Saturday, Oct. 28.